John T. Willis

Sunday, September 05, 2010

The Spirit of the Lord--A Circumlocution

The New Testament clearly distinguishes between:
1. God the Father
2. God the Son [Jesus Christ]
3. God the Holy Spirit.
The New Testament portrays the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as DIFFERENT PERSONS. To cite only two examples.
a. The Baptism of Jesus--Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22; John 1:29-34.
All of these texts AGREE that:
1. John the Baptized baptized Jesus.
2. A VOICE FROM HEAVEN said: "This is [You are] my Son, the Beloved." The speaker obviously is God the FATHER, BECAUSE he refers to Jesus as MY SON. Jesus is not a ventriloquist. God spoke TO and CONCERNING Jesus. God is one person; Jesus is a different person.
3. Jesus "saw THE SPIRIT OF GOD descending like a dove and alighting on him." Jesus did not descend on himself. The Holy Spirit a one person; Jesus is a different person.
This text sharply distinguishes between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
b. Jesus' Promise to His Disciples. John 14:25-26. Jesus makes many assuring promises to his disciples shortly before his death recorded in John 14-17. One of these occurs in John 14:25-26. Let us read this brief text:
"I [Jesus] have said these things to you [Jesus' disciples] while I am still with you. But The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom THE FATHER will send in MY name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you."
This text sharply distinguishes between:
1. God THE FATHER, since Jesus refers to him in the third person, and since he [the Father] will send the Holy Spirit to Jesus' disciples.
2. God the Son is the speaker in this context--"I" and "MY."
3. God the Holy Spirit, since the Holy Spirit is a different person other than the speaker--I and MY=Jesus Christ--and a different person other than the Father, since the Father will send the HOLY SPIRIT in Jesus' name.

Texts like these CONFUSE many people. The reason for this is that MANY texts elsewhere in the Bible use the word "spirit" referring to God which do NOT mean a PERSON different from God the Father.

It is impossible to deal with every text about "the spirit of God." Here are only a few introductory thoughts.
1. Think of the word "spirit" in Genesis 45:27. Joseph's brothers had sold Joseph to merchants, who carried him to Egypt. Joseph's brothers led Joseph's father, Jacob, to believe Joseph had died before a wild animal. See Genesis 37:29-36. But Joseph was very much alive, and after a famine, Joseph revealed his identity to his brothers in Egypt. Joseph's brothers told Jacob that Joseph was still alive. Then Genesis 45:27 says: "the SPIRIT of their father Jacob revived." Is Jacob one person, and the SPIRIT of Jacob a different person? Obviously NOT!!! The expression "the spirit of Jacob" is a circumlocution ["circumlocution" means "the use of many words to express what might be expressed by few or one; roundabout expression; periphrasis." Clearly, "the spirit of Jacob" is Jacob--Jacob himself. When Jacob realized that his son Joseph was alive, Jacob "revived.." For many years, he had though Joseph was dead, but NOW he feels just the opposite.

2. Think of the word "spirit" in the well-known text: Psalm 51:10.
"Create in me a CLEAN HEART, O God,
and put a NEW AND RIGHT SPIRIT within me."
The psalmist [possibly David] had committed great sin against God [see Psalm 51:4]. Now, he is very penitent. So, he beseeches God to create a "clean heart" in him. The "heart" here is clearly NOT the physical blood pump. The "heart" is the inner being--the person himself. The two lines in Psalm 51:10 are synonymous. "Clean heart" and "new and right spirit" mean exactly the same thing. "Spirit" here is NOT a person different from the speaker. On the contrary, the psalmist's "spirit" is the psalmist himself. The psalmist cries out that God cleanse him.

3. "The spirit of God" or "the spirit of the Lord" throughout the Old Testament is NOT the HOLY SPIRIT portrayed in texts like Matthew 3:13-17 and John 14:25-26. Rather, "the spirit of God" is a CIRCUMLOCUTION for God himself. Here are couple of examples:
a. Psalm 51:11:
"Do not cast me away from YOUR PRESENCE,
and do not take YOUR HOLY SPIRIT from me."
These two lines are synonymous. "Your presence" means exactly the same thing as "your holy spirit." God's holy spirit is God's presence. God's holy spirit is a circumlocution for God--God himself.
b. Psalm 139:7:
"Where can I go from YOUR SPIRIT?
Or where can I flee from YOUR PRESENCE?"
These two lines are synonymous. "Your spirit" means exactly the same thing as "your presence." God's holy spirit is God's presence. God's holy spirit is a circumlocution for God--God himself. A person cannot "go from" or "flee from" God.
All of these texts in the Old Testament use "the spirit of God" as a circumlocution for God the Father, including Isaiah 63:11, 14. Just study the context in these verses.

This idea is troubling for some. But, biblically, God's spirit is often God the Father himself. YES, there are many texts in the New Testament in which "the Holy Spirit" is a divine being different from God the Father and God the Son. But there are also numerous texts in which "the spirit of God" refers to God the Father.

Keep thinking and studying. Share YOUR thoughts and ideas with others. Let me hear from YOU. In forthcoming blogs, we will look at other circumlocutions in the Bible.

John Willis


  • And yet we are told that God is one. Including God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Hear O Israel, the Lord your God, the Lord is ONE. I'm thinking this means that there is one nature of God and all the entities that comprise God have that same one nature. Sinless, Holy, only light, love...this is the nature of God. As opposed to human nature. We are each individuals, but we all have the same (sin) nature. We are human. They are one God of the same nature.

    By Blogger Vicki, at 8:53 AM  

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